As one of the deepest NBA draft classes ever gets gussied up to put itself on the market, the New York Knicks, with no draft picks, can only watch as their competition takes home all that young talent. Nevertheless, the Knicks must resist the temptation to trade into the draft, for one key reason: they have no earthly idea what they need.
One of the cruelest features of the NBA calendar is that teams cannot officially begin negotiating with free agents until after the draft. So the Knicks would enter the draft without knowing whether or not Carmelo Anthony will remain in New York.
If Melo stays, they might focus on finding a new energetic point guard who can score. If Melo goes, they'll need to instead look for a new stretch four or standard small forward, especially since Iman Shumpert is still considered one of New York's best trade commodities who will certainly be more likely to move if Melo goes.
Also (not sure if you heard), the Knicks have no coaches. None. When Phil Jackson became team president, fans leaned back, put their feet up and grinned, secure in the knowledge that coaching prospects would soon flock to Madison Square Garden, positively slobbering for the head coaching job.
Two months later the job remains vacant and fans are anxiously nibbling their nails, wondering what's taking so long. It now seems premature to assume the Knicks will institute the Triangle Offense. Without a plan for the system and team leadership, the front office cannot know what players will fit in best.
Those uncertainties notwithstanding, there is also the practical question of who they would trade for a draft pick anyway. The big ticket item is center Tyson Chandler, who becomes an unrestricted free agent at the end of the 2014-15 season.
Yet the likely suitors for Chandler don't have enough draft value to offer. The Phoenix Suns have three first-round picks but not much else, so they still can't really afford to take on Chandler's contract without chopping off a hefty slice of their roster too.
The Dallas Mavericks have made it clear they want Chandler back, but they don't have any first-round draft picks this year; just two second-round picks (No. 34 and No. 51). If the Knicks had a chance to grab a young stud like Joel Embiid to lead their front court, it might be worth letting Chandler go (and that's a big might), but Embiid will be snatched up immediately. Other promising centers like Jusuf Nurkic from Bosnia and Jordan Bachynski from Arizona State are not likely to hang around until the second round either.
Trading one center mustn't necessarily mean picking up another in the draft, but without Chandler the Knicks would be thin at the 5 spot. The only true center on the roster is Cole Aldrich, who just became an unrestricted free agent.
Aldrich was mostly a deep bench option in the 2013-14 season, only averaging 7.2 minutes per game, but he put forth some great performances when he was given extra minutes late in the season. In April he averaged 16.1 minutes, 5.3 points, 1.7 blocks, 6.5 rebounds and a 60% field goal percentage. In fact, his per-minute numbers after the All-Star break were a bit better than Chandler's—0.36 rebounds, 0.10 blocks and 0.33 points for Aldrich, compared to 0.33, 0.03, and 0.28 for Chandler respectively.
Nevertheless, Aldrich isn't quite starting lineup material. Before the All-Star break, the go-to Chandler back-up was 36-year-old Kenyon Martin—a beast off the bench who always fired up his team and used his fouls wisely, making opponents think twice before driving to the bucket. However, an ankle injury in February took him out for the rest of the season, and the fact that we haven't heard an update on his health in a long time is ominous.
So if Chandler is traded, New York needs to swap one big rim protector for another or trade Chandler away and pick up a replacement elsewhere. They wouldn't get that with a second-round draft pick from Dallas.
Raymond Felton and Iman Shumpert might also be traded, but interest seems to have fizzled out since the Los Angeles Clippers begged off of a deal for the duo moments before the trade deadline in February.
It is painful to say, but the Knicks must let this draft class go and make their offseason moves in July, or however long it takes to have a coach and an answer from Melo.
Inaction comes with its set of risks, of course. Melo might interpret it as another sign of the Knicks' inability to give him a championship-caliber supporting cast. (Or he could see it as a smart move to save their assets for fully-baked players ready to win the title sooner than later.)
Also, while the Knicks get old and crotchety, most of their competitors in the Atlantic Division (the Brooklyn Nets being the exception) are young and getting stronger. The Celtics have two first-round picks (No. 6 and No. 17). The Raptors, who already surpassed expectations this season, have one first-round (No. 20) and two second-round picks. Then there's Philadelphia.
The Philadelphia 76ers, already the youngest team in the league, have seven picks, including two early in the first round (No. 3 and No. 10). Even if Philly trades some of those second-round picks, they have enough to build up a team around their star to-be-sophomore Michael Carter-Williams.
Yet despite the risks and the temptations, New York needs to pass on this draft class.
The Knicks might instead find their future starters in the D-League, where they obtained forward Jeremy Tyler and point guard Toure' Murry. New York's bought its very own D-League affiliate team (christened with the uninspired name "the Westchester Knicks"), which will debut in the 2014-15 season.
Maybe next year Westchester will prove itself to be the land of milk and honey. On June 26th, though, Knicks fans might just want to pour themselves something a little stronger, don their headphones and go on media lockdown until the draft is over. The promenade of star material to other cities might be too gut-wrenching to watch.